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RV Chorale presents 'Holiday Faire' on local PBS

Restrictions brought on by COVID-19 have everyone rethinking how to engage in their most beloved holiday traditions. Rogue Valley Chorale, guided by Artistic Director Michael Morris, has gone beyond the typical computer-screen livestream, bringing its annual holiday concert to a screen of a different sort to the people of Southern Oregon.

The local choir group will present “Holiday Faire” on Southern Oregon PBS, premiering during the station’s annual fund drive at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27, and re-airing at 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, and at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 24. It was filmed at locations around Southern Oregon, including the Historic Hanley Farm in Central Point, North Medford High School’s Sjolund Auditorium and Ashland’s Grizzly Peak Winery.

RV Chorale, like most performing arts organizations, has been challenged during the months-long pandemic to find ways to present concerts in a safe and responsible manner for its audiences. An option unfolded when Morris began to explore the notion of producing a concert to be aired on TV, specifically, Southern Oregon PBS. The idea became reality during the summer of 2020 when the Chorale went to work to produce the hour-long holiday special. For almost half a century, RV Chorale has presented a holiday concert to Southern Oregon audiences. “Holiday Faire” allowed for a continuation of this tradition during the COVID-19 pandemic when access to performance arts in theater venues has all but disappeared.

The program includes a festive mix of music performed by duets, trios, small groups and the entire Chorale. RV Chorale Association’s Executive Director Laura Rich provides narration for the program.

The show opens with selections from “Messiah” by Handel — “And the Glory of the Lord,” performed by the Chorale, and “He Shall Feed His Flock,” which features alto Mary Ann Graham and soprano Rachel Nelson, as well as Hanley Farm’s flock of sheep.

Jefferson Baroque Orchestra joins in on the program to perform “Ariette con Variazzioni” by F. W. H. Benda, a piece reminiscent of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” which features an intricate Baroque flute solo by Sherril Wood.

“Angels We Have Heard on High,” in an arrangement for double chorus by L. P Gingrich, was performed at Grizzly Peak Winery.

Dennis Freese is featured on Klezmer clarinet in a rousing performance of “Al Hannisim,” a piece that celebrates the Hanukkah Festival of Lights.

The voices of Rachel Nelson, Laura Rich and Mary Ann Graham combine to perform “What Child is This” in an arrangement by R. E. Schram on the stage at North Medford High School. Joining the trio, Morgan O’Shaughnessy plays an instrumental obbligato on the Nycholharpa, a baroque period string instrument.

Also featured is a fast-paced jazz rendition of “Joy to the World,” arranged by J. Raney, and performed by RV Chorale piano accompanist Mikiko Petrucelli and percussionist Theresa McCoy.

Julia Curiel, Laura Rich, Terry Faulkner and Dan Fowler perform Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things,” during which the singers explain why the song is appropriate for the holidays.

“Holiday Faire” also includes a sing-along portion for audience members, who can join the Chorale and Jefferson Baroque Orchestra in singing “Silent Night” and “Jingle Bells.” The program closes with a moving arrangement of “Let There Be Peace On Earth” by V. Courtney.

During filming, singers rehearsed and performed while wearing masks at safe distances from one another. The end result is a unique performance adapted to the health concerns posed by COVID-19 during an unprecedented time in the world community. Jefferson Baroque Orchestra, under the artistic direction of Morgan O’Shaughnessey, provided instrumentation during the production, and audio and video recording, mixing and editing was conducted by the Southern Oregon University Media Arts Center and Oregon Sound Recording.

RV Chorale was founded in 1973 by a group of local musicians who wanted to provide a forum for performing fine choral music. Since the Chorale’s debut performance in 1973, the organization has grown to include more than 300 singers in four choruses ranging in age from 8 through well over 80. RV Chorale has performed as a featured group at Carnegie Hall, and has toured Europe eight times, performing in some of the world’s finest venues, including the High Altar in England’s historic Canterbury Cathedral, and the Salzburg Mozart Festival.

A resident company of the Craterian Theatre located in Medford, the RV Chorale usually performs six seasonal concerts on its stage. Audience members enjoy a wide range of music from classical to contemporary, spirituals to Broadway, and Bach to the Beatles. Soloists, duets, small ensembles, and orchestration embellish concerts to create unforgettable musical experiences.

To learn more about RV Chorale, visit roguevalleychorale.org.

Rogue Valley Chorale at the Historic Hanley Farm in Central Point, one of several Southern Oregon locations where “Holiday Faire” was filmed. Photo by Michael D. Davis